But we shall find that this very revelation of fire is itself, in a higher sense, true to the mind of the rejoicing saint as to the mind of the trembling sinner. For the former sees farther into the meaning of the fire, and knows better what it will do to him. It is a symbol which needed not to be superseded, only unfolded.
While men take part with their sins, while they feel as if, separated from their sins, they would be no longer themselves, how can they understand that the lightning word is a Saviour?!–that word which pierces to the dividing between the man and the evil, which will slay the sin and give life to the sinner! Can it be any comfort to them to be told that God loves them so that He will burn them clean? Can the cleansing of the fire appear to them anything beyond what it must always, more or less, be–a process of torture?
They do not want to be clean; and they cannot bear to be tortured. Can they then do other, or could we even desire that they should do other, than fear God?–even with the fear of the wicked: until they learn to love Him with the love of the holy. To them Mount Sinai is crowned with the signs of vengeance.
And is not God ready to do unto them even as they fear?!–although with another feeling and a different end from any which they are capable of supposing! He is against sin: in so far as, and while, they and sin are one, He is against them–against their desires, their aims, their fears, and their hopes. And thus, He is altogether and always for them.
That thunder and lightning and tempest, that blackness torn with the sound of a trumpet, that visible horror billowed with the voice of words, was all but a faint image to the senses of the slaves, of what God thinks and feels against vileness and selfishness; of the unrest of unassuageable repulsion with which He regards such conditions; that so the stupid people, fearing somewhat to do as they would, might leave a little room for that grace to grow in them, which would at length make them see that evil, and not fire, is the fearful thing: yea, so transform them that they would gladly rush up into the trumpet-blast of Sinai to escape the flutes around the golden calf!
Could they have understood this, they would have needed no Mount Sinai. It was a true, and of necessity a partial revelation–partial in order to be true.